EXPERT Q&A

How much drinking is too much drinking?

The pandemic has taken a toll on many parents, leaving some wondering if they’re consuming too much alcohol as a way to deal with the stress. Learn here about how much drinking is too much, in addition to alternative ways to cope and supportive resources.

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Question

Since the outset of the pandemic, I feel that I’ve been consuming much more alcohol than before. Usually a glass of wine or two before bed. I’ve also noticed my stress levels have increased, having to strike a balance between my job and my children’s needs while also ensuring the health and safety of my family. While I know alcohol isn’t the healthiest stress reliever, do you know how much drinking is too much?

Answer

You are not the only parent asking yourself this question. And thank you for your willingness to ask a question that is often difficult for so many.

The past year has been stressful, and when people are stressed, they find different ways to cope. Some coping skills are healthy, like going for long walks or doing yoga. Others, however, find coping mechanisms that become vices. They may be enjoyable at the time, but can be unhealthy or risky over time.

To start, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse offers definitions for certain types of drinking, detailed below.

  • Heavy drinking: Three or more drinks on any one day, or more than seven drinks in one week.
  • Binge drinking: More than four drinks at one time.
  • Excessive drinking: More than eight drinks in one week.

Based on these definitions, if you find yourself experiencing heavy drinking, binge drinking, or excessive drinking, you may want to consider scaling back. And if you feel like your drinking may be getting out of hand, here are some tools you may consider using.

  1. Reach out to family or friends to talk. At times, you may simply need to vent or feel heard. Connecting with friends or family you trust who can listen without judgement may be just what you need.
  2. Practice mindfulness or meditation. Mindfulness and meditation offers you space to relax your body and focus on being present. Look online for apps such as Calm or Headspace, which provide tools that can help you practice mindfulness in your home.
  3. Do some physical activity. Exercise is a great way to boost your mood or refocus your attention away from common stressors. And while not everyone likes to exercise, it could be as simple as going for a walk and listening to a favorite podcast.
  4. Talk to a therapist. Therapy is a useful tool for everyone and can equip you with the tools and resources to handle stressful situations.
  5. Do something creative. Finding a creative outlet can help you deal with stress and things that are too often out of your control. Break out your camera or sewing machine, make a scrap book, or paint a picture.
  6. Listen to music. Listening to a favorite song can help transform your mindset. Find something you love and sing along to help destress.
  7. Spend time outdoors. Research shows that spending time in nature helps reduce one’s stress levels. Spend your afternoon outside in a park or on a long walk, or go for a hike if your weekend allows.
  8. Use the “I Am Sober” app. This app is useful if you’d like to stop drinking for a certain period of time. Once you start the app, it begins counting the minutes, hours, and days you spend not drinking—which can be an incentive to keep going. It also provides tools if you’re feeling the urge to drink.

If you are having a beer or a glass of wine a few times a week or a couple of drinks one night a weekend, you’re likely fine. It is important to consider your reasons for drinking, however. Our culture tends to celebrate alcohol use to deal with a hard day at work or a stressful time with the kids, but alcohol use becomes a problem when people believe that they need it to cope. The issue with using alcohol to cope is that it can lead to alcohol dependence and abuse. If you’re concerned about alcoholism, you can reach out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, at 1-800-662-HELP or 1-800-662-4357.

Thank you for reaching out, and the CareNectar team is here for you if you have any other questions.

Recommended Resources

Contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for information about alcohol dependency at 1-800-662-HELP or 1-800-662-4357.

Meet The Expert


Shenley Seabrook

Shenley Seabrook is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who works primarily with children and adolescents in a private practice setting. She is also a foster parent and lives with her husband and daughter in Indiana. Shenley recently wrote her first children’s book, We Have the Same Heart, which celebrates diversity, inclusion, and community service.